‘American Diagnosis’: Two Indigenous Students Share Their Paths to Medicine

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Episode 9: “Two Paths, Two Future Doctors”

In 1890, Dr. Charles Eastman became the first native to graduate from a medical school in the United States. Today, one of his descendants, Victor Lopez-Carmen, is a third-year student at Harvard Medical School. He described feeling isolated there.

“I felt alone. There were no native people around me that I could go to,” López-Carmen said.

Less than 1% of medical students in the United States identify as American Indian or Alaska Native. That’s according to a 2018 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Association of American Indian Physicians.

Lopez-Carmen is working to change that. In 2021, he co-founded the Ohiesa Premedical Program, which provides mentoring and support to Native American students as they navigate the medical school application process.

A digital drawing in pencil and watercolor.  A smiling Aboriginal woman is wearing a doctor's coat and has a stethoscope around her neck.  She wears a pair of dangling beaded earrings in orange, black and white.  The earrings seem to radiate light, to emphasize their importance in the image.
(Ona Tempest / KHN, Little E Creations (Earrings))

While López-Carmen mentors future medical students in Boston, Oklahoma, Ashton Glover finds community connected to a Native tribe at Gatewood, the first medical school in the United States. Gatewood attended the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in the Cherokee Nation.

“I told my husband about it, and he said, ‘Looks like they’re making you a medical school. You should go,'” Gatewood said.

He noted a “momentum” in medical training that he said could one day reduce health care disparities among Aboriginal people.

Episode 9 explores the barriers Indigenous people face in becoming physicians and includes the story of two medical students working to join the ranks of Indigenous health care workers in the United States.

Voiceover from the episode:

  • Victor Lopez-CarmenStudent at Harvard Medical School – @volocarmen
  • Mary WayneDirector, Center for American Indian and Minority Health, University of Minnesota, and President, Association of American Indian Physicians

Season 4 of “American Diagnosis” is co-produced by KHN and Just Human Productions.

Includes our Editorial Advisory Board Jordan Bennett-Begaye, Alistair Bitzoiand Brian Pollard.

To listen to all KHN podcasts, click here.

Listen to and follow “American Diagnosis” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or Stitcher.

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